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# If you could do anything to change the world, what would you do?

Today I got the following very interesting email. Suggestions? For example, would there be some way to transform the Azimuth Project into something more useful?

Dear John,

If you could do anything to change the world what would you do? Many people haven’t had the opportunity to ponder that question because they have been busy studying what could be possible within a particular set of resource constraints. However, what if we push the limits? If all the barriers were removed, then what would you do?

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) has an open, aggressive, and entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy. Our goal is to produce substantial, widespread and lasting changes to society that will maximize opportunity and minimize injustice. We tap into the minds of fearless thinkers who have big, bold, transformational ideas, and work with them to invest in strategies designed to solve persistent problems.

Our team is reaching out to you because we believe you are the type of innovative thinker with ideas that just might change the world. While this is not a promise of grant funding, it is an invitation to share your ideas. You can learn more about the Laura and John Arnold Foundation by visiting our website at www.arnoldfoundation.org. Thank you for your interest and I look forward to hearing your ideas.

Sincerely,

Karla Sainz

Laura and John Arnold Foundation

Public Accountability Manager

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edited August 2013

Despite the lack of comment here, I think I'll propose the Azimuth Project and Selected Papers Network as ideas that could use help from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Both these projects fit in well with their Research Integrity Initiative:

LJAF’s Research Integrity initiative aims to improve the reliability and validity of scientific evidence across fields that inform governmental policy, philanthropic endeavors, and individual decision making. As a society, we often rely on published scientific research to guide our policy, health, and lifestyle choices. Although some published research is rigorous and reliable, some is not. Worse, the unreliability of research is often difficult or impossible to ascertain. LJAF is currently working to address this problem by supporting organizations that are committed to improving the openness, transparency, and quality of research. All research projects sponsored in full or in part by LJAF must follow the Guidelines for Investments in Research.

Take a look at these guidelines - they're pretty interesting!

Comment Source:Despite the lack of comment here, I think I'll propose the Azimuth Project and Selected Papers Network as ideas that could use help from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Both these projects fit in well with their Research Integrity Initiative: > LJAF’s Research Integrity initiative aims to improve the reliability and validity of scientific evidence across fields that inform governmental policy, philanthropic endeavors, and individual decision making. As a society, we often rely on published scientific research to guide our policy, health, and lifestyle choices. Although some published research is rigorous and reliable, some is not. Worse, the unreliability of research is often difficult or impossible to ascertain. LJAF is currently working to address this problem by supporting organizations that are committed to improving the openness, transparency, and quality of research. All research projects sponsored in full or in part by LJAF must follow the [Guidelines for Investments in Research](http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/pdf/Guidelines%20for%20Research%20Funded%20by%20LJAF%207-29-2013.pdf). Take a look at these guidelines - they're pretty interesting!
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2.

Here's my reply to the above email from Karla Sainz:

Dear Karla Sainz -

Thanks for your very exciting email. It will take me at least a few weeks to organize my thoughts, since as you say, I've spent my life thinking about what I can do within my particular resource constraints. I'll get back to you!

Best, jb

Comment Source:Here's my reply to the above email from Karla Sainz: > Dear Karla Sainz - > Thanks for your very exciting email. It will take me at least a few weeks to organize my thoughts, since as you say, I've spent my life thinking about what I can do within my particular resource constraints. I'll get back to you! > Best, > jb
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3.

No worries John,

Here at the Foundation we encourage staff to always look for opportunities to learn more about potential areas of interest for LJAF. So every two weeks or so we meet in what we internally call Innovation Labs. Anything can be discussed from a problem, idea, interesting article to a book or individual. These meetings are informal gatherings that last around 1 hour to spur a culture of innovation and idea generation for the Foundation. Recently, we decided to begin inviting individuals from outside the Foundation who would like to share their ideas and projects. This is the reason why we reached out to you. The initial step would be scheduling a call just to get to know you and your work a little better and also for you to learn about the Foundation and how we work. Let me know if you would like to schedule a call in the coming weeks and we can see where that leads.

Sincerely,

Karla Sainz

Comment Source:Here's her reply: > No worries John, > Please think away! > Here at the Foundation we encourage staff to always look for opportunities to learn more about potential areas of interest for LJAF. So every two weeks or so we meet in what we internally call Innovation Labs. Anything can be discussed from a problem, idea, interesting article to a book or individual. These meetings are informal gatherings that last around 1 hour to spur a culture of innovation and idea generation for the Foundation. Recently, we decided to begin inviting individuals from outside the Foundation who would like to share their ideas and projects. This is the reason why we reached out to you. The initial step would be scheduling a call just to get to know you and your work a little better and also for you to learn about the Foundation and how we work. Let me know if you would like to schedule a call in the coming weeks and we can see where that leads. > Sincerely, > Karla Sainz
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4.
edited September 2013

IMO I think the Azimuth project would be better served by this, over the Selected Papers network, but that's, biasedly perhaps, because I don't think the Selected Papers network is particularly useful (I've commented previously on your blog about this, with the main idea being that scirate - http://www.scirate.com/ - essentially does the job here, and also has a growing user base, etc, and a new version is under active development - https://github.com/draftable/scirate3 (if for example you wanted some of the features over the SPNetwork to be there, etc.)

As for a concrete idea, perhaps a thing to thing about is "more projects" for Azimuth, perhaps in the sense of Kaggle - http://www.kaggle.com/. I.e. is there a way to have a "Azimuth" version of Kaggle, or more generally to get people who have problems in this field to post them online, in a formal way, to get interested parties to help when they have time. This seems to be a goal of Azimuth anyway, and maybe some slicker execution, or some formal website like Kaggle would help gain both types of people (the guys with the work that needs to be done, and the guys willing to do it for free or for nominal prizes, or even not-so-nominal.)

Comment Source:IMO I think the Azimuth project would be better served by this, over the Selected Papers network, but that's, biasedly perhaps, because I don't think the Selected Papers network is particularly useful (I've commented previously on your blog about this, with the main idea being that scirate - [http://www.scirate.com/](http://www.scirate.com/) - essentially does the job here, and also has a growing user base, etc, and a new version is under active development - [https://github.com/draftable/scirate3](https://github.com/draftable/scirate3) (if for example you wanted some of the features over the SPNetwork to be there, etc.) As for a concrete idea, perhaps a thing to thing about is "more projects" for Azimuth, perhaps in the sense of Kaggle - [http://www.kaggle.com/](http://www.kaggle.com/). I.e. is there a way to have a "Azimuth" version of Kaggle, or more generally to get people who have problems in this field to post them online, in a formal way, to get interested parties to help when they have time. This seems to be a goal of Azimuth anyway, and maybe some slicker execution, or some formal website like Kaggle would help gain both types of people (the guys with the work that needs to be done, and the guys willing to do it for free or for nominal prizes, or even not-so-nominal.)
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5.

I don't think we need a big grant to do this, since I think I can set this up... I think we should do a TEDx event on saving the planet. Somehow using Azimuth to find the speakers --- it would only take some funding to get them to Torino (or another location) and the money for the event. Some talks could be important and well referenced as an information source for years to come.

Comment Source:I don't think we need a big grant to do this, since I think I can set this up... I think we should do a TEDx event on saving the planet. Somehow using Azimuth to find the speakers --- it would only take some funding to get them to Torino (or another location) and the money for the event. Some talks could be important and well referenced as an information source for years to come.
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6.

I like that Kaggle idea, Noon!

Jacob wrote:

I don’t think we need a big grant to do this, since I think I can set this up…

To do what, exactly?

I think we should do a TEDx event on saving the planet.

I agree.

Comment Source:I like that Kaggle idea, Noon! (I've linkified your links - the first step was to click Markdown+Itex.) Jacob wrote: > I don’t think we need a big grant to do this, since I think I can set this up… To do what, exactly? > I think we should do a TEDx event on saving the planet. I agree.
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7.

I don't think it would cost a bunch of money to host a TEDx event on saving the planet. In other words, I think this is possible without getting a large grant. The place I work has out research and workshop funding from private sponsors.

Comment Source:I don't think it would cost a bunch of money to host a TEDx event on saving the planet. In other words, I think this is possible without getting a large grant. The place I work has out research and workshop funding from private sponsors.
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8.
edited September 2013

The guidelines of this foundation require that a project has to be stored within this open-science-framework (OSF). I looked there for indications about how this OSF project is funded. Like via big publishers, like a similar project here:

http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=5057

or via the Oil industry like the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (if I understood correctly)?

Comment Source:The guidelines of this foundation require that a project has to be stored within this <a href="https://openscienceframework.org/project/4znZP/wiki/home">open-science-framework (OSF).</a> I looked there for indications about how this OSF project is funded. Like via big publishers, like a similar project here: <a href="http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=5057">http://www.randform.org/blog/?p=5057 </a> or via the Oil industry like the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (if I understood correctly)?
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9.

I believe the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are spending money that John Arnold made from natural gas trading, not oil.

I don't mind taking money from people who got rich from fossil fuels, unless they are using their charitable activities to help them do other bad things. I would also be perfectly happy to take money from the U.S. Defense Department and spend it on researching pure mathematics.

But of course I will need to investigate the activities of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation further if their tentative offer turns into something real, and if the whole 'Azimuth Project' becomes involved we will have to discuss this as a group. So far nothing significant has happened.

Comment Source:I believe the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are spending money that John Arnold made from [natural gas trading](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Arnold), not oil. I don't mind taking money from people who got rich from fossil fuels, unless they are using their charitable activities to help them do other bad things. I would also be perfectly happy to take money from the U.S. Defense Department and spend it on researching pure mathematics. But of course I will need to investigate the activities of the Laura and John Arnold Foundation further if their tentative offer turns into something real, and if the whole 'Azimuth Project' becomes involved we will have to discuss this as a group. So far nothing significant has happened.
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10.

I don’t mind taking money from people who got rich from fossil fuels, unless they are using their charitable activities to help them do other bad things. I would also be perfectly happy to take money from the U.S. Defense Department and spend it on researching pure mathematics.

It is certainly better if a wealthy donor spends his or her money on good things. And the Laura and John Arnold Foundation seems to have a clear idea about charity strategies, if I look at their project at http://www.givinglibrary.org/about-us

The Giving Library offers philanthropists an innovative way to enhance their strategic charitable giving. Donors can explore our online archive of video interviews to locate, study, compare and engage with hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country. The Giving Library also serves nonprofit organizations by enhancing donor access through a compelling medium, increasing overall visibility, and providing an opportunity to learn about peer organizations across the country.

You can apply there, so it it seems not so easy to be chosen as an organization. It seems you can be quite lucky that they found you just without that you had applied for. On the wikipedia page about John Arnold one finds:

As Arnold told the CFTC, "I try to buy things whenever they're trading below what [our] analysis shows to be fair value and sell things whenever our analysis shows that the forward curve is higher than our analysis of fair value."

So does this mean that they are seeing in Azimuth something which is below fair value and which might at some future time show that the forward curve is higher than our analysis of fair value?

So I wonder a bit what you did tell them about Azimuth?!! I mean everybody knows that you have already passed age 50 and most of the Azimuthers here - apart from some students which are randomly dropping in and out - are in the same range or even older as far as I can tell that means (and I include myself in here) that the chances that the "forward curve gets higher than our analysis of fair value" are not too good.

But maybe buying and selling may here not be their first motivation, may be their motivations are a bit similar to the motivations for charity in this example: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/abandoned-elderly-get-new-home

Comment Source:>I don’t mind taking money from people who got rich from fossil fuels, unless they are using their charitable activities to help them do other bad things. I would also be perfectly happy to take money from the U.S. Defense Department and spend it on researching pure mathematics. It is certainly better if a wealthy donor spends his or her money on good things. And the Laura and John Arnold Foundation seems to have a clear idea about charity strategies, if I look at their project at <a href="http://www.givinglibrary.org/about-us">http://www.givinglibrary.org/about-us</a> >The Giving Library offers philanthropists an innovative way to enhance their strategic charitable giving. Donors can explore our online archive of video interviews to locate, study, compare and engage with hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country. The Giving Library also serves nonprofit organizations by enhancing donor access through a compelling medium, increasing overall visibility, and providing an opportunity to learn about peer organizations across the country. You can apply there, so it it seems not so easy to be chosen as an organization. It seems you can be quite lucky that they found you just without that you had applied for. On the wikipedia page about John Arnold one finds: >As Arnold told the CFTC, "I try to buy things whenever they're trading below what [our] analysis shows to be fair value and sell things whenever our analysis shows that the forward curve is higher than our analysis of fair value." So does this mean that they are seeing in Azimuth something which is below fair value and which might at some future time show that the forward curve is higher than our analysis of fair value? So I wonder a bit what you did tell them about Azimuth?!! I mean everybody knows that you have already passed age 50 and most of the Azimuthers here - apart from some students which are randomly dropping in and out - are in the same range or even older as far as I can tell that means (and I include myself in here) that the chances that the "forward curve gets higher than our analysis of fair value" are not too good. But maybe buying and selling may here not be their first motivation, may be their motivations are a bit similar to the motivations for charity in this example: <a href="http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/abandoned-elderly-get-new-home">http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/abandoned-elderly-get-new-home</a>
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11.
edited September 2013

So I wonder a bit what you did tell them about Azimuth?!!

I didn't tell them anything about Azimuth yet. I plan to set up a conversation with them in a few weeks, and ask them some questions, and maybe describe some ideas that seem good to me. I need to figure out what these are, which is why I've been asking everyone for suggestions on the blog and on G+.

But to some extent I want to "play it by ear" - responding to the situation spontaneously as it occurs, instead of trying to persuade the foundation of some pre-established plan. The more I can learn about what things they want to do, the more likely it is that I can find some way for our goals to overlap.

Comment Source:> So I wonder a bit what you did tell them about Azimuth?!! I didn't tell them anything about Azimuth yet. I plan to set up a conversation with them in a few weeks, and ask them some questions, and maybe describe some ideas that seem good to me. I need to figure out what these are, which is why I've been asking everyone for suggestions on the blog and on G+. Any ideas people here have about this, I'd be interested to hear. This could be important. But to some extent I want to "play it by ear" - responding to the situation spontaneously as it occurs, instead of trying to persuade the foundation of some pre-established plan. The more I can learn about what things they want to do, the more likely it is that I can find some way for our goals to overlap.
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12.

But maybe buying and selling may here not be their first motivation, may be their motivations are a bit similar to the motivations for charity in this example: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/abandoned-elderly-get-new-home

I was actually wrong with my assumption. As they wrote on their front website "Philantropy should be entrepreneurial, not institutional or bureaucratic" so actually there exists a LJAF solutions paper about creating a new public pension system by Josh B. McGee, Ph.D. Vice President for Public Accountability Initiatives where:

The way to create a sound, sustainable and fair retirement savings program is to stop promising a benefit and instead promise an accrual or savings rate

this can be done for example in a way that:

the employer promises each employee a fixed percentage of salary. These contributions are placed in an account that is managed by the employee. The employee has the flexibility to choose her investment allocation and to make individual choices about the timing and structure of her retirement. The market risk of these choices is borne solely by the employee.

and by "choose her investment allocation " I guess they certainly don't mean Lehmann brothers. We had here some pensioneers in Germany who did this mistake and lost all their retirement savings. They haven't really specified yet what should happen to this man as described in the Pnom Post and those german pensioneers, who were choosing their investment allocation in a way that leads on a massive scale to underfunding they write:

LJAF seeks fundamental changes that not only yield immediate gains, but also repair broken systems for future generations.

and again from the front page:

Think big, take risks and be aggressive and highly goal-oriented

sounds like they have a plan.

Comment Source:>But maybe buying and selling may here not be their first motivation, may be their motivations are a bit similar to the motivations for charity in this example: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/abandoned-elderly-get-new-home I was actually wrong with my assumption. As they wrote on their front website "Philantropy should be entrepreneurial, not institutional or bureaucratic" so actually there exists a LJAF solutions paper about <a href="http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/sites/default/files/pdf/A9RBC84.pdf">creating a new public pension system</a> by Josh B. McGee, Ph.D. Vice President for Public Accountability Initiatives where: >The way to create a sound, sustainable and fair retirement savings program is to stop promising a benefit and instead promise an accrual or savings rate this can be done for example in a way that: >the employer promises each employee a fixed percentage of salary. These contributions are placed in an account that is managed by the employee. The employee has the flexibility to choose her investment allocation and to make individual choices about the timing and structure of her retirement. The market risk of these choices is borne solely by the employee. and by "choose her investment allocation " I guess they certainly don't mean Lehmann brothers. We had here some pensioneers in Germany who did this mistake and lost all their retirement savings. They haven't really specified yet what should happen to this man as described in the Pnom Post and those german pensioneers, who were choosing their investment allocation in a way that leads on a massive scale to underfunding they write: > LJAF seeks fundamental changes that not only yield immediate gains, but also repair broken systems for future generations. and again from the front page: >Think big, take risks and be aggressive and highly goal-oriented sounds like they have a plan.